Received wisdom is a wonderful thing; it allows the new generation to make use of knowledge gained by previous generations without re-discovering it, and it also simplifies knowledge into a compact but powerful form. However, for whatever reasons, if there is an error in received wisdom it can be hard to spot and hard to convince others of the problem once it is spotted [[[footnote: this itself is wisdom that I have received, by the way]]], even if the error is something that would be pretty obvious if it were in your own reasoning or in the reasoning of a peer.

One possible explanation is that because received wisdom has been simplified/compactified, you get the conclusions of previous thinking without immediate access to the reasoning which led up to those conclusions. To challenge the conclusions, you need to re-evaluate that reasoning process, but in your (and others) minds, that data has been replaced by a blind faith [[[not a bad thing in this circumstance; this is what allows you to absorb conclusions without absorbing all of the evidence for previously discovered things, which is essential]]] in the authority of whoever propounded that conclusion.

In essence, in arguing against erroneous received wisdom (either within yourself or to others), you must arguing against not only the reasoning process that led up to an erroneous conclusion, but also against the possibility in the back of everyone's mind that there was actually better evidence to support that conclusion at the time at which it was drawn, that none of the current participants know about (because, the presumption is that the conclusion can be believed with a high level of confidence).

(one conclusion that we may draw is that it will be easiest to argue against received wisdom when its error rests clearly on new data discovered since the received wisdom was formulated)

Questioning received wisdom is like debugging code without access to the libraries' source code.

-- me